PITTSBURGH -- The challenge now for Jordan Lyles will be to try to find a way to put this one behind him, erase it completely from his memory bank and pretend it never happened. Lyles had turned too many corners recently to allow a rough performance impede his progress.
The first time through the Pirates' batting order Monday night, Lyles looked like the same pitcher who had allowed just three earned runs in his previous 13 1/3 innings and appeared on his way to a third consecutive quality start.
Things quickly turned sour for Lyles, who gave up seven runs and six extra-base hits in a span of 11 hitters in the fourth and fifth innings to allow the Pirates to roll to an 11-2 win at PNC Park, sending the Astros to their fifth loss in a row and seventh consecutive road loss.
"It's never easy after I give up however many runs I gave up tonight, but for a couple of days I'm not going to let it affect me," Lyles said. "It's going to wear on me a little bit the next day or so, but the positive is I threw the pitches I wanted to throw out of my hand, except one. They were just the better team tonight."
Since pulling within a game of .500 on May 25, the struggling Astros have lost 25 of 35 games to fall to a season-low 16 games under .500 (32-48). Houston is 9-29 on the road.
"We've tried to think of possible reasons why [we've played so poorly on the road], and I don't think it's something tangible that we can kind of point towards as a reason," catcher Jason Castro said. "It's frustrating, for sure, and it's something we can hopefully continue to work on."
Lyles (3-4) worked four-plus innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs while striking out six batters. It's the most runs an Astros starting pitcher has allowed in game since June 23, when J.A. Happ gave up eight runs on the day Houston was the victim of Matt Cain's perfect game.
"Our lineup is amazing right now," Pirates starter James McDonald said. "It's like every guy is a tough out. Nobody is an easy out in our lineup right now. Everybody's swinging the bat. Everybody's on fire."
The Pirates, who were 7-for-13 with runners in scoring position, had nine of their 18 hits go for extra bases. The Astros were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and managed five hits, including a homer by Scott Moore. They left the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings.
McDonald (8-3) held Houston to four hits and two runs in seven innings and pitched around five walks, though Jose Atluve led off the game with a free pass and wound up scoring to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.
The first five Pittsburgh batters reached in the fourth inning, including back-to-back home runs by Garrett Jones and Neil Walker that both hit the right-field foul pole. The Pirates scored four times in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead.
"Two balls off the pole, how many times does that happen?" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Three feet different, they're both foul balls. They both hit the pole. It works for us. The thing that was impressive was backing it up with [opposite-field] doubles, [opposite-gap] doubles, striking the ball to the big part of the park. That's what really worked out for us today."
The fifth wasn't any better for Lyles, who gave up a triple and a pair of doubles to start the inning and was pulled from the game. All three of those runners scored as the Pirates grabbed an 8-1 lead after five innings.
"After that first home run, I didn't let it affect me," Lyles said. "I still wanted to go out there. I told myself, 'That's all they get,' and tried to continue to makes pitches. For the most part, they were the better team, better offense, better hitters, better baseball players."
Castro didn't notice a difference in Lyles' command or stuff the second time through the batting order. The Pirates were 0-for-9 the first time through the lineup before Lyles gave up six hits in a span of seven batters.
"They did a great job hitting some pretty quality pitches, and when that happens, it's tough, because you don't know what to go off of after some of those pitches were getting hit," Castro said. "Luck plays a little part of it. They were hitting balls where we're not."